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Home HIV testing gains a foothold

Posting in Cancer

Over 100,000 HIV testing kits have been used at home

Nearly a year ago SmartPlanet ran this snarky headline: "In addition to sexual foreplay: Take this HIV test?" There's no knowing all of the contexts, but it turns out that more and more people are taking HIV tests privately.

Today is National HIV Testing Day in the United States, so we checked in with OraSure Technologies, makers of a US$40 rapid over the counter testing kit called OraQuick. OraSure has sold over 100,000 kits since the product came to market last October. OraQuick was previously only available to healthcare facilities before its received FDA approval for the mass market. More than 25 million have been sold in the professional market.

A survey of 500 OraQuick home customers was released to coincide with today's the national call to action. It used an evenly distributed sample based on gender and relationship status of young people aged 18-40. Some of they survey's key findings, focusing on behavior and attitude, were surprising:

  • Nearly 90% (87.8%) of consumers do not feel they are at risk for HIV, yet more than 75% have engaged in behavior that puts them at risk for HIV/AIDS
  • Consumers are putting themselves at risk for HIV:
    • More than half (52.5%) were not tested for HIV with their partner before becoming sexually active
    • 49.1% of consumers do not always make sure their partner has been recently tested for HIV/AIDS, before engaging in unprotected sex
  • More than half (54.7%) of consumers who consider themselves to be sexually active have not been tested for HIV in the past 12 months
  • Nearly half (48.1%) of consumers have not been tested for HIV because they feel they are not at risk
  • 14% of consumers are afraid to learn their HIV status; 11% are embarrassed

The OraQuick In-Home HIV Test takes 20 minutes and is 93 percent accurate for positive results and is 99.8 percent effective for negative results, the manufacturer says. OraScure recommends a follow-up blood test for customers if results test prove positive, because a blood test is even more accurate.

There are many additional testing options from trusted general practitioners to low-cost or free clinics which have staff trained to respect privacy and manage mental health issues that could arise with receiving positive results. Here's a good resource for locating testing centers in the United States for anyone who wishes to be tested.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that all sexually active people should know their status.

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— By on June 27, 2013, 11:55 AM PST

David Worthington

Contributing Editor

David Worthington has written for BetaNews, eWeek, PC World, Technologizer and ZDNet. Formerly, he was a senior editor at SD Times. He holds a business degree from Temple University. He is based in New York. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure